Medieval Suite (1983)
This piece was written in homage to three great masters of the Middle Ages: Leonin (middle 12th century), Perotin (c. 1155-1200), and Machaut (c. 1300-1377). These are neither transcriptions of their works nor attempts at emulating their respective styles. Rather, their music served as a sort of launching pad for three pieces which draw on some of the stylistic characteristics of music from that period, e.g., repetition of rhythmic patterns or modes, modules of sound, proportions that produce octaves, fourths and fifths, use of Gregorian chant, syncopation, and long pedal points where a sustained tone regulates melodic progression.
Homage to Leonin evokes his sinuous melodic style and use of Gregorian chant. It is a “mood piece” in which a chant on the Dorian mode is gradually transformed into a perfectly symmetrical eight-tone scale. The movement follows the form of an arch with a large climax, after which it closes as it began.
Homage to Perotin springs from his VideruntÐwith its driving rhythmic intensity, repetition, and pedal points. The opening section features insistent dissonances in alternation with brass fanfare-like passages. A second theme played by unison brass is written in the Aeolian mode.
Homage to Machaut evokes the stately, gently syncopated and flowing sounds of this master of choral writing. The movement consists of a statement with two repetitions, each with different instrumentation. It closes with the same chant and instrumental textures which opened the suite.
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